NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -Goaltender Cam Ward wasn't the only reason the Carolina Hurricanes took three of four regular-season games from the New Jersey Devils this season.
The Hurricanes' power play might have been even more important, and it's something New Jersey is going to have control if the Devils hope to survive a best-of-7 first-round playoff series that starts Wednesday night.
Carolina was 7-of-16 on the power play against New Jersey this season. The Hurricanes scored only four goals when the teams were at even strength.
"The way they beat us was with their power play," said veteran center John Madden, the Devils' top penalty killer. "If we can control that and not let them score..."
Madden never finished the thought, but the conclusion was obvious.
Carolina outscored New Jersey 11-8 in the regular season, with Ward posting a 3-0 record with a 1.67 goals against average.
The big offensive weapon for Carolina was defenseman Anton Babchuk. The 24-year-old Ukrainian scored four of the seven power-play goals with a blistering slapshot from the point.
"He has what I would describe as a hard shot," Devils left wing Zach Parise said. "It seems like it just goes through goaltenders."
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur noted that Babchuk, who had had nine power-play goals overall, has a lot of help in extra-man situations. Center Eric Staal scored 14 of his 40 goals on the power play, Tuomo Ruutu added 10 and defenseman Joe Corvo had eight.
"You have to give up a shot," Brodeur said. "You've just got to make sure it's not in the prime scoring area. What I'm talking about with the prime scoring area is the dots. Anything that's inside the dots makes it tough to react for anybody. You have a lot of deflections, a lot of screens, unwanted screens from your own players sometimes because you're giving up these chances."
Madden said the key for the penalty killers is to keep the Hurricanes to the outside of the dots on the power play. If the shot comes from that area, there is less to shoot at and, if the shot misses the net, it will generally ricochet out of danger.
"You need to do a lot of things to be successful against their power play," Madden said. "You have to keep the puck out of certain guys' hands and you have to let Marty see the puck when it comes to the net. On top of that, you have to be disciplined. You can't take any dumb penalties because they have a lot of weapons out there and they are capable of winning the game on the power play alone."
Coach Brent Sutter acknowledged that that the Devils need to do a better job, but he had no interest in talking about it.
"There's things that we'll work on," he said. "I'm not going to tell you, but there's things that we certainly have to do a little better job at and we'll make some adjustments."
Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said teams focus intently on the tendencies of their opponents in the playoffs and that tends to reduce scoring chances.
"When you penalty kill you try to take away certain players," Langenbrunner said. "The problem is if you try to take away someone 80 feet from the net that opens things up for the guys in close. The key is to stay out of the penalty box. The problem is teams are going to score on the power play. It's a fact of life."
Carolina's power play was ranked 18th in the NHL this season, converting on almost 19 percent of its chances.
But the Hurricanes converted almost 44 percent against New Jersey.
"They have skilled offensive guys on their back end and that makes it hard," Brodeur said. "They shoot the puck really well. We haven't talked about what we're going to do, but I'm sure there will be some tweaking from what we did in the regular season. That's what I expect. I'm the goalie, so I'm the last one to know what's going to happen until the puck comes at me."